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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Macro Talk 
Thread started 21 Apr 2013 (Sunday) 11:57
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How do people focus stack insects?

 
Houston1852
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Apr 21, 2013 11:57 |  #1

I've never actually attempted focus stacking, but I would like to give it a try someday. I see all these great shots of insects, but usually when I'm out with my macro I'm lucky if I can get a bug to sit still long enough for a shot. It seems to me focus stacking would be somewhat time consuming, so how do people manage to get multiple shots to stack of a bug without it moving? If the bug just moves a little, wouldn't that throw everything off?
Ryan




  
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gatorlink
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Apr 22, 2013 18:06 |  #2

It is indeed time consuming if you're talking about doing deep stacks with more than a handful of shots, and yes, movement in the subject often spoils deep stacks. It is quite possible to stack a few shots handheld, so if you are doing that, you really only need as much time as it takes to fire off the shots. I have seen many people do this successfully, and this is probably the best place to start.

Personally, I prefer to do deep stacks (30-80 shots) taken from a tripod of a subject that is on a base that is either perfectly still already (e.g., a rock or tree trunk) or forced to be perfectly still by a clamp attached to a second tripod. If you are using really good stacking software (e.g., Zerene Stacker), the subject can move a little bit, and you can still make it work. However, most stacks of more than 15 shots will fail due to subject movement. It's just the name of the game. In terms of time, I have been known to spend 20-45 minutes with a single subject on some occasions, and almost never less than 10.

The key to keeping subjects still enough for stacking is to do your stacking right at sunrise or sunset. You can do stacking during the day as well, but you will have a much harder time finding a subject that will stay still long enough for a stack of more than a small number of shots. Sleeping insects are still insects.


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Martin ­ G.
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Apr 24, 2013 16:40 as a reply to  @ gatorlink's post |  #3

as Ryan mentioned, in the morning with cooler temps, it helps as insects are less active. You need to be patient and some practice and be prepared to loose some shots as well, which is fine for me.

I do not do deep stacks like Ryan, but I will go to 10-15 shots handheld, I think the most I have done was around 20 handheld. Since I shoot quite wide to maximize the use of natural light, I do require a fair number of stacks. If you shoot narrower, say f9 to f11, you might just need 3 or 4, always depends of the angle and what you are shooting. Just start with 2 anyway, 2 is better than 1!

When you go handheld, you need good comprehension of the stacking software you are using as the frames will not allign perfectly and it requires a good amount of editing. I also use Zerene, which I find a charm to work with.

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Houston1852
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Apr 24, 2013 19:12 |  #4

Thank you both for the info. I have a follow up question. So, when taking your multiple shots, how do you focus for stacking? I figured if the camera is mounted on a tripod you just focus, take a pic, select a different focus spot, take the pic, and so on. If handheld, I think it would be hard to select a different focus spot while staying as still as possible. Sorry if this is a dumb question!
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Martin ­ G.
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Apr 24, 2013 21:33 as a reply to  @ Houston1852's post |  #5

there are no dumb questions.

in macro, we use only manual focus. So basically I just move the camera further or nearer, so I get pictures at different focus intervals. I use liveview, magnify to 10x and pinpoint exactly where I want the focus to be. In other words, once you have focussed, you no longer touch the lens, you just move the camera back and forth. I will typically start at the closest point and finish at the most distal. Say you are taking a portrait of a fly in higher mag., I would start at the antennae and end up where the most distal part of the eyes finish.

With a tripod, you would use a micro focussing rail. It does the same thing, you turn the knob and the camera goes forward or backward. It is of course much more precise and necessary when you want to do deep stacks. Or at any time of course, it is more precise and stable.

I hope it helps

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Houston1852
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Apr 24, 2013 21:38 |  #6

Thanks Martin, I've done alot of macro over the last year so I'm used to just moving the camera in and out for focus. I guess I just keep thinking for stacking I want as little movement as possible and I know once I start moving in and out things won't line up. I've tried a few hdr shots handheld and they rarely turn out so well for me.




  
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ElectronGuru
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May 20, 2013 19:35 |  #7

Sounds like we need to ask Canon to create 'focus bracketing'. 1) set the number of shots, 2) set the total depth, 3) dial in the starting point, and 4) go!


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wayne9999
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May 20, 2013 20:44 |  #8

And some people probably chill them and bring them back where they can stack on a copy stand type setup like they have in museums. I'm impressed with people who do it in the field, as that's how I'd like to do it someday.




  
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abbypanda
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May 21, 2013 01:40 |  #9

Great info here




  
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billyendo
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Jun 22, 2013 17:01 |  #10

The way I focus stack is:
1-tripod mount camera
2-set the aperture at the largest (small number) aperture
3-manually focus on the part of the subject closet to you (on 'deep' subjects much will be out of focus)
4-turn the focus ring a little bit to focus a bit deeper and continue the steps of focusing deeper till you reach the back of the subject
5-put the images in Zerene Stacker and that's it

The number of images you take from 'front to back' of your subject, combined with the aperture setting will determine the detail in your subject. The final stacked image, depending on how many images are stacked, can easily exceed 50mb.

Hope this helped.
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adam ­ 91
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Jun 22, 2013 17:15 |  #11

My method is not as methodical as those mentioned above but it works for me. I will use the back and forth motion to change the focus point, but will go back and forth over the subject 2-3 times to increase the chances of having a good range of keepers. Once on the computer I will go through each set checking which areas I have in focus and ordering them ready to process. I just blend mine manually in photoshop as I never got the hang of the stacking software. I don't do deep stacks by any means, usually 3-5 shots.


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Lester ­ Wareham
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Jul 01, 2013 12:55 |  #12

adam 91 wrote in post #16055417 (external link)
My method is not as methodical as those mentioned above but it works for me. I will use the back and forth motion to change the focus point, but will go back and forth over the subject 2-3 times to increase the chances of having a good range of keepers. Once on the computer I will go through each set checking which areas I have in focus and ordering them ready to process. I just blend mine manually in photoshop as I never got the hang of the stacking software. I don't do deep stacks by any means, usually 3-5 shots.

This is how I work too.


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gmillerf
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Jul 08, 2013 14:08 |  #13

ElectronGuru wrote in post #15951232 (external link)
Sounds like we need to ask Canon to create 'focus bracketing'. 1) set the number of shots, 2) set the total depth, 3) dial in the starting point, and 4) go!

This feature is available in Magic Lantern. I've never used it because I don't have a macro lens with autofocus, but it looks promising. There are also apps for Android phones that do the same when controlling the camera.


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weeatmice
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Jul 16, 2013 08:54 |  #14

Regarding ML focus stacking. It works. Though I found it the interface unintuitive (might just be me). The resulting images stacked very well in photoshop.


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Aug 18, 2013 18:31 as a reply to  @ weeatmice's post |  #15

Put the suckers in the fridge>set-up your shoot at the kitchen table>put a dab of honey on a leaf> introduce your anesthetized insect to honey>shoot away.
Or have your kids bring you dead ones like this>

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How do people focus stack insects?
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